Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday
January 7, 2022
Stiffer penalties needed for sexual crimes, says Dr Friday

Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday says it appears as if the government does more when it comes to framing legislation to restrict peoples’ rights and freedoms than it does to deter crimes of a sexual nature.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) leader added on Wednesday while speaking on the New Times program on Nice Radio that an NDP government will do all in its power to ensure the maximum is done to deter persons from committing criminal sexual acts, especially against minors.

Dr Friday was speaking in response to public outcry over a four year sentence handed down recently to a man found guilty of sexually molesting a four-year-old girl.

Last Monday, the 35-year-old security guard was jailed for four years by the Family Court after he pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault of the four-year-old child.

Days before he was arrested, charged and jailed, a recording of a man engaged in a sexual act with a child was making the rounds on social media. The recording led to his arrest and conviction.

After the sentencing, persons took to social media, expressing anger about the length of the sentence and noting that is was not sufficiently harsh.

An area of discussion was that the police had warned persons not to share the video and noted that it was a criminal offence, which on summary conviction can attract a fine of EC$300,000 or imprisonment for seven years or both, or on conviction on indictment to a fine of EC$750,000 or to imprisonment for 20 years or to both.

It was noted that sharing the recording could result in a harsher sentences than the act in the recording itself.

Dr Friday said that government has brought legislation to address other things and must do the same in this case.

“They have brought changes to various legislation when it is dealing with things that affect peoples’ rights to protest and to be involved in exercising democratic rights and so forth,” he said.

“Anything that puts the government under any sort of pressure. This matter here that has been highlighted by us but also by others, by social workers, by professionals in the field, has been talked about, has been noted by international organisations, as to St Vincent and the Grenadines’ lack of serious progress or any progress in this matter, they have not have not done it.

“The will appear to be lacking in the response or the lack thereof from the government in dealing with this issue,” Dr Friday charged.

The opposition leader said this most recent case is shocking and sentencing must in the future be commensurate with the severity of the offence.

“This one is one that we should say, listen, let us make this a case that says henceforth we are going to be dealing with this problem in a constructive way to ensure that proper penalties are in place, that proper signals are sent for persons who are abused, young children, or women, persons of any age where there is sexual assault, that we treat these matter seriously and that we address them as a society from all levels,” he suggested.

“From the level of the criminal justice system, at the social level, in the families, in the homes, in the churches, everywhere so that we can eliminate this problem in the society,” Dr Friday said.

He added that the NDP has committed itself to renewing legislation, social programs and all the factors that are in play in these sorts of offences to ensure the maximum is done to deter would be offenders, protect persons and help affected persons heal.

“That is not presently the case and we as a society, we have to demand that greater penalties be instituted for these offences and that there is a special unit to do the investigations,” said Dr Friday.

He said there needs to be a high probability of conviction in cases of this nature once the evidence presents itself while there also must be protection for victims and witnesses.

“We have to do something about this. This offence is really a shock to the conscience of the nation that the offences occurred and then that the penalty is so low for such a serious offence,” Dr Friday said on radio.

He noted also that the NDP has been talking about these issues for years as these types of offences have been happening and are very problematic.

“Our responses are to the problems that are affecting the society and the programs we put forward are to address those problems so the fact that we have been highlighting these things, have been urging action over the years, is an indication that these problems, they are not new, they have been there,” Dr Friday stressed.

He said the situation in the country is one that is in dire need of intervention and change and whenever criminal offences are committed the penalty has to be such that it would be to deter other offenders and send a message that we take these matters seriously and would do what we can to protect children.

“The incidents of the assault of minors is too great and this a wake-up call if we need any at the turn of the New Year.

“Stiffer sentences and serious prosecution and the sweeping things under the carpet in families is something that we also have to deal with as the damage being done is very real to our young people,” the opposition leader said.